Everyday medicine: fecal analysis

Visual fecal analysis exam“Everyday Medicine” is an intermittent series of blog posts highlighting tests, treatments, and procedures common in daily Animal Medical Center practice. Some past examples of this type of blog post include hospital wards and vomiting or regurgitation.

Today’s post focuses on fecal analysis.

The 2011 American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association Canine Preventive Healthcare Guidelines recommend a minimum of an annual fecal examination to diagnose intestinal parasites.  This recommendation explains why your veterinarian gives you a little cup or tube in advance of your dog’s annual exam and asks you to collect a fecal sample.  Fecal analysis is frequently part of the testing performed when your dog has a bout of diarrhea.

Visual examination

Most intestinal parasites are not visible to the naked eye.  The exception is tapeworms.  Tapeworms are a segmented worm and the little segments pass out of the intestine with the stool.  Above, you can see the tapeworm segments the owners found when cleaning up after her dog.

Microscopic examination

In cases of acute diarrhea, a bit of stool and some saline mixed on a microscope slide can result in a quick diagnosis of Giardia when your veterinarian sees the little parasites swimming around when the slide is examined using a microscope.  Occasionally, if I am are lucky, I might identify a coccidian organism or a worm egg.

Fecal floatation

The fecal floatation technique requires the stool sample to be mixed with a special solution and sometimes the protocol requires centrifugation of the sample.  The process causes worm eggs to float up and stick to a coverslip which is then placed on a microscope slide and evaluated.  This is thought to be one of the most reliable tests for intestinal parasite like roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms and stomach worms.

Baerman technique

While the fecal floatation technique identifies eggs in the stool sample, the Baerman test looks for larva or immature worms.  Baerman technique requires special equipment and is not typically done in a private practice but in the commercial veterinary laboratory.  This is the test veterinarians use to diagnose lungworms which can cause a chronic cough in dogs.

New generation of fecal analysis

The newest type of fecal analysis uses a technology called enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) that recognizes a protein on the parasite.  The advantage of this type of test is that the parasite does not have to be shedding eggs for the test to detect an infection like for a fecal floatation.  This allows earlier diagnosis and prompt treatment.  The most commonly used ELISA detects Giardia infection.

The importance of a fecal analysis in keeping your dog healthy is undeniable, so be sure to bring that sample to your dog’s next examination.

Making your cat live to be 100!

This photo is my patient, Jake, celebrating his 18th birthday which is approximately 86 in cat years.  But Jake is not my longest-lived patient, Sparky, an orange gentleman at 18 and a half takes that prize.  Weezer, a stripey spring chicken is the runner up at nearly 16 years.  What do these three elderly cats tell us about aging in our feline companions?

Many diseases, one cat

Research stemming from a Swedish pet insurance database indicates that cats like Jake represent the typical older feline patient.  In the Scandinavian cohort of cats, cancer, kidney disease and intestinal disease increase in frequency as cats age. Medically speaking, Jake has intestinal lymphoma, recurrent kidney infections, heart disease, pancreatitis and an occasional flare up of diabetes, all of which are currently under control.  Older cats, with a myriad of medical conditions, need a plethora of carefully titrated drugs to keep their problems well controlled.   From my veterinary viewpoint, these cases are incredibly challenging because one disease may need a medication like steroids while another disease like diabetes can flare up with steroid therapy.

Intestinal lymphoma

One diagnosis common to all three of these cats is cancer.  Jake, Sparky and Weezer all have lymphoma and for that matter, the same form of lymphoma, gastrointestinal small cell lymphoma.  This little fact should give you hope since all three cats have exceeded the reported average lifespan of cats which is 14 years, despite a diagnosis which is expected to send their owners into a blue funk.  Gastrointestinal small cell lymphoma has become the most common form of lymphoma diagnosed in cats and carries a good prognosis when treated early.  The take home message here is if your cat has a cancer diagnosis, despair should not be your first emotion.

Good news, cats are living longer

Sparky, Weezer and Jake reflect a new trend in cat lifespans.  Information from the Swedish pet insurance database I mentioned above suggests that cats are living longer.  For example, between 1998 and 2002, 58% of Birman cats lived on average 12.5 years and between 2003 and 2006 68% of Birman cats lived 12.5 years.  An increase in longevity was seen across the spectrum of cats including other purebreds and domestic cats.  The reason for this increase is currently a mystery.

How can you get your cat to live like Weezer, Sparky and Jake?

To have a geriatric cat, you first need your young cat to be healthy. Some very simple lifestyle modifications will help that happen.  Neutering has been shown to be associated with an increased lifespan.  Since trauma is a big killer of young cats, make your cats indoor ones.

Another killer of young cats is infectious disease.   Keeping your cat indoors will help protect your favorite fur person against contracting an infectious disease like FeLV and FIV, but vaccinations are another important component of protection against infectious disease.

Finally, feeding the right food will also help your cat grow old, but not too much, since overweight cats have a truncated lifespan.

Winter hazards in your home

Inclement weather brings all kinds of outdoor hazards for your pet:  ice melt, toxic antifreeze on the street and stray voltage from corroded electrical wires.

https://www.amcny.org/blog/2016/01/13/protecting-your-pet-against-winter-weather#

Although your home is a seemingly safe and snug respite from the cold, indoor hazards abound.  Safeguard your pets against them.

Cool it off

Anyone who has lived in an overheated New York City apartment knows opening the windows in January is required to keep the inhabitants of the apartment from overheating.  The problem with that solution is lack of window screens in many New York City apartments.  Open, screenless windows put pets at risk for high rise syndrome.

https://www.amcny.org/blog/2014/07/09/high-rise-syndrome-in-cats#

The AMC animal ER treats falls from windows year round when windows are flung open for indoor climate control.

Turn up the heat

Not every home is warm enough during the winter and even the toastiest of homes rapidly becomes cold if your heat goes out during a winter storm provoked power outage.   Sources of heat keep everyone comfortable, but they can also be hazardous.  Pets can easily tip space heaters over and start a fire, or worse, burn themselves if they get too close.  Fireplaces create a cozywintertime ambiance, but like space heaters, an open fire can shoot sparks which can burn your pet or ignite their fur.  Steam pipes must be covered with pipe insulation to protect pets and humans from inadvertent burns.

Indoor air quality

To keep out the inclement weather, we keep our homes shut tight in the winter.  Indoor air quality can suffer.  This serves as a reminder for you to check the batteries in both your smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitor.  Just like humans, pets are susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning which is more common in the winter because of faulty heating and fireplaces. A recent article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/10.2460/javma.253.10.1328

described a serious respiratory condition in three kittens caused by an ozone generating air purifier.  High levels of ozone were suspected to be the culprit since the ozone air purifier was set for a room much larger than the room where the kittens were confined.  Happily, all three kittens recovered, but carefully read all the directions on any air purifiers being used around pets.

Coping with the cold

If the heat goes out in your house or apartment, your pet in its fur coat will cope better than you will.  Put on their coat or sweater to keep them comfortable inside.  To help your pet stay warm while they are sleeping, put a cozy blanket in their carrier or crate and then cover it with another blanket to protect against a cold draft.  Their body heat should be able to keep them warm inside the insulated carrier.  If possible, give them a warm meal rather than cold food from the cabinet.    If it is too cold for you inside, then book a room at the nearest pet friendly hotel!

Stay warm, keep safe and protect your pets against outdoor AND indoor cold weather hazards.

Although your home is a seemingly safe and snug respite from the cold, indoor hazards abound.  Safeguard your pets against them.

Cool it off

Anyone who has lived in an overheated New York City apartment knows opening the windows in January is required to keep the inhabitants of the apartment from overheating.  The problem with that solution is lack of window screens in many New York City apartments.  Open, screenless windows put pets at risk for high rise syndrome.

https://www.amcny.org/blog/2014/07/09/high-rise-syndrome-in-cats#

The AMC animal ER treats falls from windows year round when windows are flung open for indoor climate control.

Turn up the heat

Not every home is warm enough during the winter and even the toastiest of homes rapidly becomes cold if your heat goes out during a winter storm provoked power outage.   Sources of heat keep everyone comfortable, but they can also be hazardous.  Pets can easily tip space heaters over and start a fire, or worse, burn themselves if they get too close.  Fireplaces create a cozywintertime ambiance, but like space heaters, an open fire can shoot sparks which can burn your pet or ignite their fur.  Steam pipes must be covered with pipe insulation to protect pets and humans from inadvertent burns.

Indoor air quality

To keep out the inclement weather, we keep our homes shut tight in the winter.  Indoor air quality can suffer.  This serves as a reminder for you to check the batteries in both your smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitor.  Just like humans, pets are susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning which is more common in the winter because of faulty heating and fireplaces. A recent article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/10.2460/javma.253.10.1328

described a serious respiratory condition in three kittens caused by an ozone generating air purifier.  High levels of ozone were suspected to be the culprit since the ozone air purifier was set for a room much larger than the room where the kittens were confined.  Happily, all three kittens recovered, but carefully read all the directions on any air purifiers being used around pets.

Coping with the cold

If the heat goes out in your house or apartment, your pet in its fur coat will cope better than you will.  Put on their coat or sweater to keep them comfortable inside.  To help your pet stay warm while they are sleeping, put a cozy blanket in their carrier or crate and then cover it with another blanket to protect against a cold draft.  Their body heat should be able to keep them warm inside the insulated carrier.  If possible, give them a warm meal rather than cold food from the cabinet.    If it is too cold for you inside, then book a room at the nearest pet friendly hotel!

Stay warm, keep safe and protect your pets against outdoor AND indoor cold weather hazards.

2018 Trending Viral Animal

At the conclusion of my monthly SiriusXM Stars 109 “Ask the Vet” show, I close with the trending viral animal of the month.  Since the arrival of a new year prompts us to review the old one, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the trending viral animals highlighted on “Ask the Vet” in 2018.  Be sure to tune in to the January episode of “Ask the Vet” Saturday January 5 at 9 am EST and Sunday January 6 at 8 pm EST.  Have a question for me?  Record your question by calling 866-993-8267 or contact us via AMC’s social media channels.

Misty of Chincoteague

The annual pony swim from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island in Virginia makes news every year landing the wild ponies on our trending viral animal list.  While Misty is long gone, children still love this classic tale of the Saltwater Cowboy round up of these charming creatures.  Thousands of spectators watch the pony round up and enjoy the carnival.  The foals are then auctioned to support the local fire department.

Haji Hernandez

“Keith doesn’t have a cat, I have Keith” proclaims the Twitter profile for @keithpurrnandez, the 15-year -old Bengal cat “boss” associated with former NY Met and current ESPN commentator, Keith Hernandez.  Hajii continuously tweets for tuna and criticizes the lack of high quality service from Keith.

Dia the detection dog

I have nothing but admiration for the working dogs who serve as our eyes, protect us against explosives and help people suffering from serious medical conditions.  This year I learned about a new type of working dog – an invasive plant sniffing dog.  Diaworks for the New York and New Jersey Trail Conference.

https://www.nynjtc.org/news/dog-will-change-way-we-fight-invasives

Dia, a yellow Labrador will work in concert with the efforts of Lower Hudson Partnership for Invasive Species Management to eradicate an invasive species known as scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius).  You can follow her on Instagram @DiaTheDetectionDog as she sniffs out invasive plants.  Her GPS collar will allow pinpoint location of the invasive plants and a team will use that information to facilitate eradication.

One big cow

Knickers is actually not a cow, but is a steer, the correct term for a neutered male bovine.  

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/world/australia/such-a-big-steer.html

Standing over six feet tall, this Australian Holstein-Friesian will live out his years on a farm in Western Australia since he cannot be sold for steaks since he is too large for the processing plant equipment.   Other animals on the farm look up to Knickers, literally!  

Goat babies in pajamas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfxUt9UM0nc

I know you think this is crazy, but just watch a few seconds of this viral video and I can guarantee your worst day will become just a little bit better.  

Like the goat babies in pajamas, all the other viral animals bring smiles to our faces and reinforce exactlywhy we have pets in our lives.  What a great way to end 2018 and we wish you all the happiest of New Year

Antibiotic resistance and your pet

Yesterday, I saw two limping dogs. Both had injured a toe – one in an accident with a door and the other in some unknown traumatic event resulting in a swollen toe with a fractured nail. My treatments were simple for both dogs: clip the fur on the one with the scraped toe, and for the second dog, I trimmed off the fractured nail and covered the paw with a medical boot to prevent licking. After the dogs left my office, I started to worry. Should I have prescribed antibiotics?

Appropriate antibiotic prescriptions

Antibiotics are only effective in treating infections caused by bacteria. Not every bacterium is killed by every antibiotic. The best way for me to select an antibiotic is based on a laboratory test called a culture and sensitivity. For this test, I submit a sample of the infected material (urine, abscess or biopsy) to the lab. They isolate and identify the bacteria. The lab then tests a panel of antibiotics against the bacteria to identify the best one to treat your pet’s infection. If I am highly suspicious of an infection, I will make a best guess as to an appropriate antibiotic and treat while I wait for the results of the culture and sensitivity.

Inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions

Infections caused by viruses do not respond to antibiotics, such as feline upper respiratory infections  and canine influenza.
If your dog has had the flu, he may have been treated with antibiotics, but only if the flu had allowed a bacterial infection in the lungs or pneumonia.

The risk is resistance

Why did I not prescribe antibiotics for my two canine patients with toe injuries? Unnecessary antibiotic use is responsible for creating bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Neither dog had evidence of an infection and both dogs felt well except for their toe. One dog had the canine version of a skinned knee and I am sure is already better today. The other dog probably had the fractured toenail for close to a week and it had not become infected. The medical boot I prescribed provided a barrier against infection.

The downside of antibiotics

You might ask is there harm in giving an antibiotic to these dogs as a preventive measure. All drugs cause adverse effects. Vomiting and diarrhea are common adverse effects from antibiotic therapy. My job is to make pets feel better, not worse. When there is no infection, an antibiotic might make your pet feel worse. The greater harm is creating resistant bacteria by prescribing antibiotics when they are not needed. When your pet really needs an antibiotic, I won’t have one that works due to resistance induced by unnecessary antibiotics.

What can you do?

If your veterinarian prescribes antibiotics for your pet, give them exactly as prescribed. Discontinuing antibiotic treatment early increases the risk of inducing antibiotic resistance without eradicating the infection.

Holiday Gifts

A Visit from St. Nick to Fido and Fluffy

I am certain if your dog or cat could talk, he would ask for a special gift this holiday season. To help you fill your fur babies’ stockings hung by the chimney with care, AMC has developed this list of unique pet presents, with a bit of help from former New Yorker, C. Clement Moore!

The children were nestled all snug in their beds

While waiting for Santa, tuck your hamster or guinea pig into a cozy bed with a silky soft, all natural kapok mattress. The Ware Build-a Bed  packaging can quickly be assembled into a critter bed. After a long winter’s nap, your pocket pet can safely chew their bed, which is printed with 100% pet safe vegetable ink, while they wait for Santa’s arrival.

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads

Sugarplums, a luxury treat in the 19th century, should not be on your pet’s Santa list. Instead, your cat will go crazy for Terrabone cat sushi. Cat sushi is not really sushi since this product does not contain raw fish, but contains traditional Japanese bonito tuna flakes. Bonito tuna flakes are high in protein and your cat will agree they are a 21st century feline version of the sugarplum.

Give the luster of mid-day to objects below

Light up your late night walk with a the Headlight Harness and a reflective leash. Need more light to get a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer? Get your dog a USB LED rechargeable leash in one of six neon colors. Rudolph will be so jealous.

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof

Your cat will prance, paw and claw at the Calypso cat scratcher. The vertical design is perfect for stretching and the sisal weave appeals to your cat’s tactile senses. The base is weighted to prevent tipping. Your cat’s eyes will twinkle when St. Nick pulls this toy out of his pack.

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back

And your dog would love that bundle to contain a Snuffle Mat.
A snuffle mat is a food puzzle a reminiscent of a 1970’s shag carpet, but instead of your mother yelling at you for dropping food on her carpet, you hide treats between the tufts of fabric sprouting from the mat. This sends your dog on a snuffling spree.
A do-it-yourself version of the snuffle mat is available here.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

While St. Nicholas made a dramatic entry down the chimney, you want to be in control of your dog’s exits and entries. Consider installing a smart door controlled by an app on your phone. You can let your dogs in and out with a touch of the screen. The door limits entry so only your dogs can come back inside. Be sure to leave the door open on Christmas in case Santa doesn’t want to use the chimney to make a delivery.

I hope this list will inspire your holiday giving and put you in the mood for a joyous season. For more pet gift ideas, read our previous holiday gift blogs.

https://www.amcny.org/blog/2017/11/29/holiday-pet-gift-guide-2017#
http://www.amcny.org/blog/2016/11/23/pet-holiday-gifts-2016
http://www.amcny.org/blog/2014/12/03/holiday-gifts-for-pets

And in the words of St. Nicholas himself, “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Taking Medical Photos of Your Pet

The smartphone has revolutionized much of life today. Not only can we stay in constant contact with family and friends, but we can also listen to music, watch sporting events, and record life’s important moments in photographs and video. In a previous blog post, I suggested how you could use your smartphone to keep your pet healthy.

Smartphones have also revolutionized veterinary care via apps, access to scientific journals, and rapid communication with pet families. Your smartphone has improved my ability to care for your pet when you use it to send me images to keep me abreast of changes in your pet. Some photos are more helpful than others. Here are my suggestions to help you take the best medical photos possible.

Focus
Below is a very crisp, clear photograph of a healing incision. The photographer owner was concerned the incision was red on one end of the incision. I agreed with her assessment, but it was not severe enough for a trip to the ER, and the over the next two days the skin around the incision became normal again.

crisp photo

Compare the previous photo to this one. You can see it is out of focus and because it was out of focus I could not determine what the owner was trying to convey using this image.

fuzzy incision

Zoom In, Zoom Out
Sometimes, two photos would be helpful. The first photo should show where the problem is on the body, and the second should be closer in to show what the area in question actually looks like. On left is a photo of the elbow of a pug. The wider scope of the photo helps me see where the lesion is and how big it is. On the right is a close-up and I can readily see a bald patch without infection or swelling. If you send me only the second photo, I am at a loss as to the location of the abnormality.

zoom photo

Title Your Photo
Sometimes you are so worried about your pet, you snap a photo and send it to me without a label or caption. Without more information, I am at a loss as to what I am looking at or how I should respond. For example, the heading in the email said “Rosie today”. I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at. Turns out the photo was an out of focus close up of a stool sample with a fleck of blood on it. If the title was “Rosie’s poop today”, I could have grasped the owner’s concern.

And because a picture is worth 1,000 words, you can tell me a lot more about your pet with one well taken photograph rather than a very long email. So get clicking and start sending, but focus, title and frame those photos!

Finding the Right Sitter for Your Pet

pet sitter

In my last blog post, I wrote how smart devices like automatic feeders and pet cams make pet families lives easier. Technology is a poor substitute for a human being who watches over your pet while you are away on a business trip or vacation. Since I recommended a human pet sitter and not a robotic one, I thought I should give my readers some guidelines for selecting the right pet sitter.

Sleepaway Camp or Stay-cation
One of the first decisions you should make about care for your pet is where your pet will be taken care of: at home, at someone else’s home, or at a boarding facility. Each of these options has its pluses and minuses. A stay-cation might be great for your sedentary, octogenarian cat, but a puppy who needs exercise and training might be very bored and potentially destructive if left alone except for daily walks during your two-week vacation. If you have a dog who is the life of the party, a boarding facility will provide the perfect opportunity for a sleep away stay. The introverted dog will probably find a week at a friend’s house more to his liking.

Credentials and Qualifications
The pet-loving neighbor kid might be a good person to feed your young, healthy cat while you are away for a couple of days; on the other hand, the neighbor kid is definitely not qualified if your cat needs medications while you are away. The skill level required of a pet sitter increases dramatically when medications are involved. Your veterinarian’s office will likely know of an experienced veterinary technician or assistant who can both feed your pet and administer medications while you are away. Some veterinary hospitals will also do “medical boarding” which can be a good solution to the pet care problem. If you use a boarding facility, check on their policies regarding medication administration. Don’t forget to alert the boarding facility if any heartworm or flea/tick preventive medications are due while you are away.

God Forbid, an Emergency
Another point of inquiry is how the facility handles medical emergencies. If the boarding facility uses an emergency clinic, be sure the boarding facility knows who your pet’s regular veterinarian is and also notify your regular veterinarian regarding your pet’s boarding schedule. It wouldn’t hurt to make a quick one-pager on your pet’s current medications, health concerns and your contact information while you are away. You might also consider designating a medical proxy to make decisions in the event you cannot be reached at a critical moment.

With a bit of advanced planning, both you and your pet can have a wonderful time away even if you are apart.

Do you really need a cat sitter?

catsitter

This week marks the beginning of the 2018 holiday season and with the holidays comes travel for celebrations with family and friends. Grandma may not have your cat on the holiday guest list, and other cats are just homebodies. With all the smart devices available to cat lovers, is a cat sitter really necessary when your cat is not traveling with you?

Remote Feeders
One of my very tech oriented millennial clients stopped by for new food and medication for his cat. We discussed the exact amount of the new food she should eat. After we settled on one quarter of a cup three times daily, he simply sat in the chair in my office and used his cat’s smart feeder app on his phone to dispense the exact amount of food from the feeder’s dry food reservoir. Get a water fountain at your local pet emporium and you don’t even have to worry about refilling the water bowl.

Robotic Litterboxes
For those that hate scooping poop, a self-cleaning litter box eliminates that chore. These litter boxes also allow you to leave your cat home unattended but maintain their litter box in pristine condition, at least until the waste drawer is full. Robotic litter boxes require a power source and are bigger than traditional boxes, so you will need the right space to take advantage of their convenience. Cats must weigh over a certain amount (>5 pounds) to trigger the automatic scoop function, so this might not be a good choice for petite cats.

Treat Cams
Smart technology using cameras and microphones will allow you to check in on your cats and talk with them via Bluetooth as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. Some smart cams have additional functionality and can dispense treats, spritz aromatherapy, and stream video from the internet. With all this connectivity, will your cat even miss you?

Who’s in charge while you’re away?
While smart technology will allow you to provide food, water, a clean litter box, and some remote human interaction, some glitches could thwart your best laid plans for a sitter-free holiday. If your cat needs medication, smart technology may not be able to ensure your favorite feline isn’t spitting out the pills just out of camera range. Since all these devices depend on internet service and electricity, a winter storm that knocks out the power could leave your cat hungry and thirsty and in the dark. All your smart devices will make the cat owner’s life easier, however nothing can replace what your cat craves most, you. So give your cat a special holiday gift, her very own cat sitter!

Having a Heart to Heart Talk with Yourself About Your Pet’s Cancer Diagnosis

Cure Pet Cancer

November is National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. One in every four dogs and one in every five cats will develop cancer in their lifetime and @amcny is doing its part to raise pet cancer awareness by tweeting to #CurePetCancer to raise awareness.

Since cancer diagnoses are common in pets, many of my readers will face the difficult task of choosing cancer treatment decisions for their pet. Here is a list of questions you should ask yourself as you work through that decision-making process.

What kind of cancer specialist does my pet need?
Veterinary cancer specialists are not all the same. At AMC, we have three different types of cancer experts for pets: those that focus on administering chemotherapy, some who specialize in delivering radiation therapy, and the third type have special training in surgical oncology. We all know the basics of cancer treatment principals, but have different strengths within that core information. Your pet may need a consultation with one of us or all of us, depending on the type of cancer that has been diagnosed. The answer to this question lies in the biopsy because the type of tumor your pet has dictates the treatment options.

What kind of treatment is the oncologist recommending and is it right for my pet?
There are three main treatments for cancer: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Not every treatment is appropriate for every type of cancer and based on the biopsy, an oncologist will discuss what options are available to your pet and the expected outcome for each treatment option. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy require multiple treatments over several weeks to months. Surgery typically requires only a few visits to the hospital and has the highest chance of curing certain cancers. Cancer is most common in older pets and the grey muzzle set is also most likely to have other medical conditions which have to be taken into consideration in making the decision to pursue cancer treatment.

Do I have the resources to undertake the recommended treatment?
This question isn’t just about money, although cancer treatment can be costly. Another consideration when making the decision to treat your pet’s cancer is your time. Sometimes a trip to the surgical oncologist is all that is needed and other times 20+ trips are required for a course of chemotherapy. Be sure you understand what is required for the recommended treatment protocol. Your emotional resources count too. Maybe you are also caring for a seriously ill human family member and cancer treatment for the pet is more than you can handle. Or maybe it is the other way around and you can’t bear to lose two family members at once.

What is the prognosis for my pet with and without treatment?
This is a loaded question. The question is fair, but pet families who choose not to treat their pet’s cancer don’t often consult with an oncologist. That means oncologists, like me, don’t always have a good handle on the prognosis without treating many types of cancer.

If you have decided to make an appointment for a consultation with a veterinary cancer specialist, read about fancy cancer words that we try to keep out of our conversation with you, but sometimes accidentally slip into a conversation about treating your pet. Being prepared for a visit with a specialist will help to make sure all your questions are answered.